Purcellville's former Mayor Bob Lazaro posted to Twitter this week declaring he is "so glad we made investments in new water resources in #Purcellville when the opportunity arrived. Scary in California" with a link to this Washington Post Article, titled "West's historic drought stokes fears of water crisis."
I replied to him that his post was anecdotal because he implies that such drought conditions won't happen in Purcellville simply because of the investments his town council made, but it doesn't give a full picture. What is going on in California, and now spans a dozen states and nearly 600 counties, is that these areas have failed to get the needed rains for a third straight year in a row and their aquifers have begun to fail and dry up.
You can have 100 water wells and the most advanced water system in the world, but lack of rain will ultimately undo all that work and investment. Because drought is progressive in nature and comes on slowly, it is often not recognized until it reaches a severe level. Several weeks, months, or even years may pass before people know that a drought is occurring. The end can happen as gradually as it began. Municipalities can reduce their susceptibility of their community to drought, but a long sustained multi-year drought is no match for number of wells and advanced technologies.
Ground water, which is found in aquifers below the surface of the Earth, is used to provide a large portion of the Nation's population with drinking water. The water level in the aquifer that supplies a well does not always stay the same. Droughts, seasonal variations in rainfall, and pumping rates affect the height of the underground water levels. If a well is pumped at a faster rate than the aquifer around it is recharged by precipitation or other underground flow, then water levels in the well will be lowered. An extreme lack of rain will contribute heavily to this. The water level in a well can also be lowered if other wells near it are withdrawing too much water and most homes in Western Loudoun (outside town limits) are served by private wells. Municipalities have little to no control how much those on private well draw from them, so even without the lack of rain we are vulnerable due to increased growth.
Purcellville has added more water wells simply because we have tripled in population in the past decade and it was needed. The town is better able to adequately meet demand which the previous town council initiated and should be commended for doing so. However, the reality is that even our municipality would suffer the same fate as these other areas if the rain stopped.
It is dishonest of Bob Lazaro to infer that Purcellville is impervious to what is happening elsewhere. It is also disheartening for anyone to imply that the lack of water out West is somehow the fault of these 600 counties and a lack of foresight is to blame.
The force of nature is "an event outside of human control of which no one can be held responsible." We should have empathy for our fellow Americans affected by the lack of rain and drought conditions because one day we may suffer the same fate.
If you want to see the effects of too much growth where water resources are limited, click here to see a timeline of growth in Las Vegas and the nearby water reservoir level and the drying up of Lake Urmia.